Why We Should Worry About Google

Inside Higher Ed reports on University of Virginia professor Siva Vaidhyanathan’s new book, The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) (U of California Press, 2011).

Here is a taste:

The Virginia professor, who is not afraid to confess his affection for the ease and usefulness of Google, nevertheless distrusts the company’s basic motivations as it vies for our intellectual inheritance. “Google has fostered a more seamless, democratized, global, cosmopolitan information ecosystem,” he writes. “Yet it has simultaneously contributed to the steady commercialization of higher education and the erosion of standards of information quality.”

Google does not reward our impulse to know, Vaidhyanathan argues; it exploits it by making it appear as though knowing is easy. “The ways that Google structures, judges, and delivers knowledge to us exacerbate our worst tendencies to jump to erroneous conclusions and act on them in ways that cause harm,” the professor writes. Meanwhile the company keeps collecting, on behalf of its advertisers, the wealth of personal information that we feed it in exchange for this flattery, then pats its own back all the way to the bank.